We had an amazing 2 week vacation in Mozambique with our friends Heather, Donovan and Monica.  We hopped on a direct 4 hour flight from Luanda to Maputo with LAM – Mozambique Airlines, rented a 4×4 and headed the northern province of Inhambane (about 450km north of Maputo).  We stayed in self-catering cottages in 3 different beach towns and had plenty of time for relaxing, swimming, snorkelling, etc. 

Our first stop was at Tofinho beach on a small peninsula where surfing, diving and snorkelling are the main activities.  Tofinho best known for its large population of juvenile male whale shark.  Many diving companies have “Ocean Safaris” where they go out specifically looking for whale shark and you get to jump in and swim around with them.  We went out and were not lucky enough to see any.  However, Heather and Donovan persisted and on a second trip out they swam with 2-7 meter long whale shark and 2 manta rays.  Damn…we missed it!  Tofinho had a nice little village with a market and a couple of bars and restaurants.  It was good fun!

The next part of our trip was spent in the town of Vilankulos (roughly 250km north of Tofinho) which is a jumping off point to the Bazaruto Archipelago.  There are 5 main islands and again the area is known for its spectacular beaches, diving and snorkelling.  We took a couple of boat trips out around the islands and did some snorkelling ourselves.  There was incredible visibility and there are many coastal reefs which allowed us to see some awesome fish and coral.  We also encountered a family of dolphins and a couple of sea turtles along the way.  We were really wishing we had an underwater camera in order to capture some of the cool things we say.  Next time!

Our third stop was at Barra beach, back down near Tofinho where we started out.  There we met up with a few more co-workers from Luanda and spent our final days relaxing, getting a massage, and chillin out.  Finally, we headed back to Maputo for a couple of days of shopping and, well shopping!  Maputo has much more to offer in terms of shopping, groceries, etc so we all stocked up on things we can’t get in Luanda (or are just too damn expensive). 

All in all, another great holiday here in Africa.  I hope you enjoy the pictures!!!  Beijinhos a todos.


Camping on the Beach

It´s become a regular event on our 3 day weekends!  We head out of town to one of the beaches down south with a group of friends, work on our tans, relax, etc.  In the evening we have a BBQ, a few drinks and build a fire.  It´s a great escape from the city and we´ve discovered some really beautiful beaches.

Sunrise at Cabo LedoMorning at Cabo Ledo

Last weekend we went to Cabo Ledo, the surf beach, and I actually got a brief surf lesson, followed by a go at body boarding.  It was good fun, but I don´t think I´m a ´surfer´or ever will be.

Body Boarding Lesson!

Signs of War

There is a wierdness about parts of Angola, as you can still see remnants of the civil war.  It´s been six years now and for the most part Angolans have reestablished their homes and communities, but the war has left many visible scars throughout cities and countryside.  On our week long trip in October, and each time we head south past the Kwanzaa river for a stay at the beach we are reminded again of the outrageous circumstances that endangered the lives of so many Angolans.

Abandoned army tank at the crossing of the Kwanzaa River, surrounded by landminesAnother abandoned tank in the counryside near Waco Kungo

Shot up building in Huambo

And another

The most alarming signs of war are the red and white markers along the road just before and after the Kwanzaa River bridge (a high traffic area as it provides access to the south) which indicate landmines.  I haven´t counted, but there are at least 50-100 markers, some of them right next to the road.  Exploring in certain areas is definitely not an option.

Strangely there are almost no signs of war in the city of Luanda as it is said to have been a impenetrable fortress during the war.  It was the only safe haven.  As a result, over a million Angolans migrated to Luanda during the war escaping the threat of death and violence in their villages and seeking job opportunities in order to support their families.   Prior to the war Luanda was a city of roughly 250,000 inhabitants and today is home to over 1.2 million residents.  We´ve heard stories from a few locals that they or their family members had to flee their villages and journey up to 1000km on foot through mountains or deserts to reach Luanda.  Since the war ended, they predict less than 5% have returned to their villages, leaving Luanda responsible for 4 times the population it was built for.

Sao Paulo Market

For the third time now, I headed into town for a trip to the Sao Paulo neighborhood/ market to shop for some vibrant African fabrics.  The market is in a commercial part of downtown that is not very desirable.  It’s dirty and is always super crowded.  The streets are full of people selling all sorts of goods including fruits and veggies, shoes, dish towels, sponges, brooms, etc.  It’s an area of town that gives a much clearer picture of what Luanda is really like, chaotic and poor.

View of the neighborhood.

Ladies selling stuff on the street outside the market.

The fabric costs about US$10 and comes  in 6 yard pieces, so it’s one of very few things that are reasonably priced here.  These fabrics aren’t made here in Angola (as nothing is), but are imported mostly from the Ivory Coast.  The shop we usually go to is the second story of a huge clothing store and is filled with shelf after shelf of fabrics from many different vendors.  There are so many to choose from!  Many fabrics are African colors and geometric shapes, but you can also find Asian prints, shiny gold and silver patterns, or even plaids and stripes.  They have some really funny stuff as well, like ones with huge safety pins stamped all over it.   Yesterday we saw a money tree pattern.  The fabric was actually a beautiful blue color with a nice tree on it, but when you got close you see that their are dollars and coins in the leaves.  More fun patterns include ones with airplanes on it, another with chickens, zebras, even the Virgin Mary.

There are about 10 rows just like this one, full of fabric.

Our friend Angela picking out some purple fabric.

The colors are so vibrant and there are so many to choose from!

Anyway, it’s a fun and interesting outing.  This time I was looking for fabric for my classroom as I have several pillows for my reading corner, but they don’t have any covers.  So, the idea is that I will make the pillow covers, but first I have to learn to sew.   🙂   We’ll see how that goes.  My friend Angela is going to teach me.

Namibian Holiday

Rodrigo and I spent our 3 week Christmas holiday in the amazing Namibia.  We had a great time in the Etosha National Park for some game viewing, then went on to the Aba Huab river bed in the Damaraland desert for some archeological and geological treasures.  We spent Christmas in a lovely boutique hotel in an upscale beach resort town called Swakopmund, which was a welcome break from 9 days camping and cooking every meal on a tiny gas stove.  We had the chance to dine and shop to our hearts content.  Next we headed off to the sand dunes of Sossusvlei for some breathtaking desert views.  We met a very nice couple from London who we hiked down the Sesrium canyon with before heading back to Windhoek, Namibia’s Capital city, for New Year’s Eve.  Throughout we were able to take some beautiful pictures and have a memorable “African safari” experience.  Here is a sample of photos from more than 1500 shots taken during our holiday.

Our Namibia Top 10:

10.)  Driving on the wrong, I mean… left side of the road.  Weird!!  It took us both a couple of days to get used to this.  The steering wheel, turn signals, lights, gear shift….all backwards!  At lease Namibia has a very small population, no traffic and miles and miles of excellent roads for one to become accustomed to the left side.  So the chances of us causing an accident while still learning were less than they would have been anywhere else.

9.)  Namibia is loaded with bird life.  We saw many unique birds all over the country.  We enjoyed watching various birds of pray, including a small gray owl at a waterhole in Etosha.

8.)  Shopping for unique African art in Swakopmund was wonderful!  Of course, there is no shopping in Angola. except at a dirty little craft market just outside of town.  Everything there is imported and the prices are insane.  So, this was a real treat!  We saw some beautiful jewelry, wooden carvings, textiles, etc. and brought a few special items back with us.

7.)  Camping!  Yes, that’s right.  The camping was actually a highlight.  It was luxury camping (especially compared to the camping we’d done in Angola).  Our rooftop tent was both comfy and weather proof (we slept comfortably during a few thunderstorms without worrying about getting wet).  Each campsite was equipped with electricity, a water tap and BBQ pit, plus the campgrounds all had toilet and shower blocks with hot water.  Not to mention waterholes for game viewing a short walk from the grounds.  Oh, and did I mention the refrigerator inside our vehicle?  I’ll camp like this anytime!

6.)  Our stop off in the Damarland desert led us to the Twyfelfontein rock engravings which are about 6000 years old.  It is a World Heritage Site.    The nomadic groups that lived in the area were hunters and documented where the animals could be found.  The engravings are out in the open, not in caves as you might expect.  It was a nice historical and archeological tour in a beautiful mountainous desert area.

5.)  When we arrived in Windhoek, everything was closed, including most restaurants.  Luckily, Rodrigo had a work contact in Windhoek who was kind enough to have us for lunch on New Year’s Day.  Alex is Indian and has lived in Windhoek for over 20 years with his wife and family.  They own the only Apple retail and service center in Namibia and sell stock to our school in Angola.  His wife also owns the only Indian restaurant in Namibia as well.  She prepared a traditional Indian meal for Rodrigo and I (we both love Indian food) and spent almost 8 hours eating and talking and drinking spice tea around their table.  They were lovely and so was the meal.

4.)  There is nothing like sitting or parking at a waterhole and waiting to see what animals come for a drink.  To us it was very calm and relaxing, but the animals were always on the lookout for signs of a predator.   The giraffes were most cautious of all taking a few steps forward, then scanning their surroundings and listening for noises, then another few steps.  When they finally reached the water they really have to strain their legs into the half splits to be able to take a drink.  Again, always alert.  They take a quick drink then pop up suddenly to scan.  Fascinating!

3.)  A boat trip from Walvis Bay for marine life viewing.  We were a bit skeptical as it was quite expensive and we’ve done tons of boat trips in Brazil.  Luckily, we went for it!  We had an awesome time.  Before leaving the dock we had a friendly seal showing off for us (it may have been for the  fish the captain was giving her) and were surrounded by giant pelicans, and I mean giant (they came up to my waist when on land and their wing span was probably wider than I am tall).  We also saw an enormous seal colony (roughly 100,000) and tons of oyster farms.  The real attractions were the dolphins.  We saw a couple of families out in the bay eager to jump and splash around.   To top it all off, we were served champagne and oysters.  I did not know that Namibia grows some of the world’s best oysters.  And believe me, they were AMAZING!!!

2.)  Sunrise and Sunset at Sossusvlei!  Rodrigo and I climbed one of the highest dunes in the world, twice!  It wasn’t easy trekking up the sand, but the breathtaking views and serene surroundings made it all worthwhile!

1.)  The big 5!  Well, we only saw 3 actually.  Lion, elephant and rhino.  Apparently there are no buffalo in Namibia and leopard we just weren’t lucky enough to see.  However we saw a plethera of giraffe, zebra, antelope, wildebeest, elephant, rhino and lion up close and personal!  It was really cool to see the animals in their natural habitat.  We had to stay in our car, of course, but on many occasions the animals were almost close enough to touch.

It’s been an exciting first semester here in Angola.  We’ve enjoyed our new jobs, met many interesting people and have experienced a bit of Africa.  All in all, we are very happy here!  Check out the sunset we had on the night of our staff Christmas party.  Beautiful!

Por do Sol

Now we are off on another adventure for our Christmas holiday, a Namibian safari!  We will be game viewing in Etosha National Park where the large mammals are seen in their natural habitat.  Then, up into the Damara desert to see the rare desert Elephant, followed by some time in the charming German-influenced coastal town of Swakopmund.  We will be there for Christmas so we hope to have access to internet and will try to call/email loved ones.  Next, we’ll visit spectacular sand dunes in Soussvlei in southern Namibia and finally a few days in the capital city, Windhoek.  Namibia was colonized by the Germans and is said to be exremely organized, an easy place to travel and they make lots of great beer.  It sounds like we can’t go wrong! 

We’ll try and blog a bit during the trip if possible, but if we can’t….we’d like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season and best wishes for a fun-loving new year!!!   Love ya, Mara and Rodrigo


Fresh tuna anyone?

Rodrigo has a new hobby!  He’s been out fishing a couple of times with a group of teachers who own their own boat.  On his first day out he caught this huge tuna fish, saw a great white shark and a leatherback sea turtle.  We had a nice meal that evening, the freshest of Tuna steak.  Let’s hope he continues and then we can eat for free more often 🙂